Join us in celebrating the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. To gear up for the June 26 anniversary, msnbc will feature couples’ and individuals’ reflections on the impact the decision has had on their lives and the future of the LGBT rights fight in the United States.
In the last year, marriage equality has come to nine states. Federal judges have also struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin, though their decisions are on hold pending appeals.
No ban on same-sex nuptials has survived in federal court since DOMA’s demise. And, as of this month, every remaining ban has been hit with a legal challenge. Both marriage equality advocates, and opponents alike, believe it won’t be long before the issue is once again before the U.S. Supreme Court, and ultimately legalized throughout the nation.
This Q&A has been edited
Name: Cherno Biko
City, state: Columbus, Ohio
Profession: Trans* advocate
Have you noticed a general shift in attitude toward the LGBT community since the Supreme Court ruling?
The LGBT alphabet soup can be problematic because too often the “T” has often been silenced. However, the gay and lesbian community has seen a tremendous shift since DOMA was found to be unconstitutional. When DOMA was signed into law 20 years ago, no same sex couple had ever been married in America, and this year millions of Americans tuning into the Grammys were “Drunk In Love” as Queen Latifah officiated a mass wedding ceremony including same-sex couples. What we’re seeing is “the normative power of the actual” and America is evolving like Obama had to. Hopefully with the work of Janet Mock and Laverne Cox the trans* community can shift our recent visibility into power and change as well.
What are the ways in which the DOMA ruling has fallen short?
Living at the intersection of being a trans* person of color is often bittersweet. In 2008, I was 17 years old and unable to vote, so I channeled all of my young political drive into campaigning for then-Sen. Barack Obama. On election night, all I could do was cry confused tears as my young mind tried to process the historic victory of Obama, and the blow of Prop 8 passing in California. Last year was more of the same conundrum with headlines that read “Why The Supreme Court Said No to Blacks & Yes to Gays” when the SCOTUS ruled DOMA unconstitutional and simultaneously threw away a century of civil rights work by striking down the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
What would you like President Obama and future leaders to prioritize in terms of LGBT rights?
The non-profit industrial complex is real, and they would have you believe that we lead one-issue lives, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Our movement is so much more than marriage. Let’s tackle violence, homelessness, access to healthcare, criminalization, and trans* inclusive non-discrimination.
If you were married recently, how has it affected your lives?
Last month I fulfilled a lifelong dream and had the honor of serving as flower girl in the wedding ceremony of Kim (Crosby) and Tiq Milan. Kim is literally a goddess and Tiq is the senior media strategist for GLAAD and is also a trans man. It was in this moment that I realized how important marriage equality can be, even for trans* folks. Although marriage is not an option nationwide, for gays and lesbians, it is already a reality for many who are transgender. Transgender folks have uniquely nuanced issues regarding marriage equality, partly because laws recognizing a person’s gender identity and expression vary state to state. I was so inspired by their love that I became a summer intern for Why Marriage Matters & Equality Ohio to bring marriage equality (and trans* inclusive non-discrimination) to my home state of Ohio.
Follow Cherno on Twitter: @ChernoBiko.
*”The asterisk following the word trans, represents the umbrella that creates space for folks like us who are gender non conforming.” -Cherno Biko